Australian Government Looking to Hold Casinos Accountable for Stolen Money


In the past, if someone steals money and uses it to gamble, that person is solely responsible for making restitution. The Australian government is looking for alternative ways to make victims whole. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a new Parliament bill will make gambling companies liable if gamblers make bets at casinos with stolen money.

Wilkie Introduces Making Gambling Businesses Accountable Bill

Last week, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie introduced the Making Gambling Businesses Accountable Bill into Parliament. The bill will be an update to the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. If passed, the new law will make gambling companies liable for any stolen monies received from gamblers.

Under the new law, gambling companies that suspect a gambler of wagering with stolen goods must contact AUSTRAC to report it. This will make gambling companies responsible in much the same way that pawnbrokers are responsible for selling stolen goods. For example, a pawnbroker buys a stolen gold watch from someone and discovers it is stolen. The pawnbroker must turn over the property with no recompense to them.

According to Mr. Wilkie, “We must have a legal mechanism in place that ensures stolen money is returned to victims by gambling companies if the gambling companies are ordered to do so by a court of law. Gambling companies cannot be allowed to profit from the proceeds of crime.”

Currently, if someone were to steal $5,000 from their company and blow it all playing blackjack or roulette, only the party that stole the money is responsible. Under this bill, the gambling company will have to return the $5,000 to the victim.

Over Half of Problems Gamblers Steal Money to Bet at Casinos

It is not uncommon to hear of someone stealing money to fund a gambling addiction. Approximately three of five problems gamblers have stolen money and blown it on gambling. That’s according to the Journal of Gambling Studies. In Australia, gambling addiction is classified as a mental disorder.

Financial Counselling Australia director of policy and campaigns Lauren Levin told the Sydney Morning Herald that countries like Britain have similar laws in place and that those laws are important to protecting victims of theft.

According to Levin, “It seems so wrong that a gambling company can turn a blind eye to accepting criminally funded gambling and the victims are the ones that really have no rights and suffer a lot of harm.

The little guy ends up going to jail and the [gambling] companies get to keep the money. No one ever looks at the behaviour of the gambling company in allowing the person to bet a sum of money that should have raised flags.”

Levin has a valid point in that many times, someone that has stolen money will bet larger sums than the average gambler. In many cases, these players are easily traceable, and abnormal betting patterns easily determined.

Bill Does Not Protect Everyone

According to Ms. Levin, the new bill does have limitations. For example, if someone steals a family member’s credit cards and gambles at online casinos in Australia, the gambler will not face charges unless the family member complains.

Often, a family member will not pursue legal action due to various factors. Sometimes it’s as simple as not wanting to see the loved one in court. Other times, the family member may be experiencing domestic violence.

Ms. Levin suggests that online casinos be required to verify that the person gambling is the same person that owns the credit card. Also, a person should be notified when their cards are being used for gambling. Many Australian banks now block gambling transactions from credit cards, including Bank Australia.

This new law is one that supporters of online gambling should back. Victims of theft should have additional avenues to recoup their losses. Gambling companies should be able to spot potential problem gamblers. Often, these people need help and are unable to do so. These laws will help to protect victims and even instill more confidence in gambling institutions.